Updated: Apr 11, 2020
How to launch lean
You have something to put out into the world and you’re excited to launch into a launch.
Launches can be incredibly intimidating, so it’s natural to look to the experts in your field who are crushing it for inspiration.
Inspiration is great, but imitation is where the trouble starts.
It starts when a potential client says “I want a launch like Amy Porterfield’s.”
I take a deep breath, before launching into why that just won’t work.
“But, why can't I launch like the big names? I want big results”
Those big results come from launching, learning, optimizing, launching over and over again.
I’d like to run like Usain Bolt, but even if you give me his exact shoes and I run his precise training schedule, I’m not going to come anywhere close to his worst time.
Same goes with launches.
You aren’t going to enjoy the same results as Amy with her launch strategy unless you have:
✅ Amy’s credibility and reach
✅ Amy’s rock-solid proven offer
✅ Amy’s perfected positioning and messaging
✅ Amy’s budget
✅ Amy’s team
Notice how these are all AMY’s?
It’s not the sales page or the email sequences on their own that make the magic happen, it’s the X-factor.
X factor: a variable in a given situation that could have the most significant impact on the outcome. (Oxford Dictionary)
Beware The Plug-And-Play Launch Trap
We need to address the elephant in the room - swipes and plug-and-play launch strategies.
There has been a rise in the number of these out there and they’re often thrown in as bonuses with programs.
“Buy my program and I'll give you the exact funnel/sales page/emails/etc., we used for our 7-figure launch.”
Now, we get it if you’ve been tempted because using a plug-and-play strategy may seem like:
A magic bullet to launch success
The only way to launch for someone who hasn’t launched before
A blueprint to replicating someone else’s launch success
Again, unless it comes with those other key ingredients, the recipe alone is not going to yield the results you’re hungry for.
It’s a recipe for disappointment.
First off, magic bullets don’t exist, and you’ll:
Include components you don’t necessarily need
Miss out on the bits you really need
Spend more time and money than necessary
Can they work sometimes?
Of course. Similar to putting our friend Usain in a different pair of shoes, he’ll still be fast because he has a proven track record. (Groan)
Strategy changes with scale.
Also, scaling takes time.
Let’s look at the last B-School launch as an example.
This isn’t her first rodeo.
Marie has launched every single year for over a decade.
Yes, you read that right, every year for over TEN years.
That means that with each launch the strategy has been refined and is constantly evolving.
She also has 6-figure budgets, $30k ad spends, and 40-people teams to execute the launches.
Add to that the years invested into nurturing her audience and building authority.
I’m going to guess that your budget, team, and audience are like Marie’s.
If you do have a 6-figure budget, more power to you. But, be warned. That's just one piece of the launch budget. Big ad spend does not equal big sales results. That's an article for another day.
So, different ingredients require a different recipe.
Your launch needs to be different too.
Your launch strategy needs to be tailored to the opportunities and constraints specific to your business.
That’s where Minimum Viable Launches (MVL) come in.
What are Minimum Viable Launches (MVL)?
A Minimum Viable Launch is a starter launch.
Just like Usain Bolt’s first race wasn’t an Olympic run, your offer needs a place to hit its stride too.
Minimum Viable Launches test whether an offer will actually sell.
They also provide important insight about the most efficient ways to promote your launch (hello, optimized ad spend).
Add to that a sprinkle of audience building and data about their specific needs.
It’s a leverage and support approach to launching.
MVLs build up your strategy in iterations.
Your strategy is based on the opportunities available to your business (like a great referral network, or an upcoming interview) and the limitations you face (like a small budget or team).
Long before we put a name to it, we would execute launches that used minimum capital with maximum results, while collecting as much data as possible to improve the next launch.
Over time, we started calling them Minimum Viable Launches.
Planning a Minimum Viable Launch
The process is as easy as 1-2-3.
PHASE I: Pre-Launch
The most cliché metaphor in the book for a launch is...you guessed it, a rocket launch.
But I like it.
Now, engineers don’t just wake up one Monday morning and decide to launch a rocket (or a turbo-powered snail) into space.
Years (if not decades) of careful design and planning go into it.
This planning is the pre-launch phase.
If this stage goes right, then the chances of a successful launch is high.
When rushed, overlooked, or overplanned then the chances of a successful liftoff become significantly lower.
And while your launch is unlikely to take more than a few weeks to plan, your pre-launch phase is crucial.
During pre-launch, you need to consider demand, offer, and reach.
This is a gauge of how hot people are for what you’re going to launch.
A few questions to consider are:
Have people bought this before?
Have people been asking you for this offer?
Will your offer solve an actual problem that your audience faces?
Is your offer in the best form for your audience to take advantage of it?
Successful launches offer something people already need or want.
Too often we see too much money spent on an offer that hasn’t been validated.
That leads to a lot of frustration and disappointment that can be avoided with MVLs.
There are two key things to consider - Awareness and Ability.
An introduction to audience awareness
There are four stops on the audience awareness scale. These align with the customer journey.
Not familiar with a Customer Awareness journey? Here’s a quick recap:
If your audience is Unaware, they don’t really even know they even have a problem.
If they’re Problem Aware, then they know they have a problem, but don't know what the solution is or if it even exists.
When your audience is Solution Aware they know they have a problem, and they know there’s a solution out there that gets them the results they want, but they just don’t know about your product (yet!).
If they’re Product Aware, they know they have a problem, and they know that you have a solution for it.
Where does your audience fall on the awareness spectrum?
Your strategy will vary depending on where your audience falls.
For example, if your audience is Unaware, then you’re going to need a longer funnel, potentially with a webinar and extra nurture sequences.
Let’s borrow Susan on the Rock from our blog post on improving conversion.
Susan’s the ultimate digital marketing cliché, selling a course teaching people to get rich quick while living that #laptoplife.
She wants a quick launch so she hits with the hard sale, and a ton of urgency.
But what if Susan’s prospects have never heard of online business?
Their initial reaction is going to look a little like this:
If your audience is unaware, you need to take the time to educate them. That looks like webinars, nurture emails, and supplementary blog posts.
But what if Susan’s prospects are 20-somethings looking to travel full time and make an income?
(Aka they’re both problem aware, and solution aware)
Susan can hit them with a few emails and a checkout page with testimonials and she’ll be golden.
Next up is ability.
No we’re not talking about their ability to execute a perfect downward dog.
We’re referring to your audience’s ability to pony up the cash for your offer.
Many gurus and coaches say to ‘charge what you’re worth.’ That’s not bad advice but it’s only part of the equation.
The sweet spot for pricing lies between what your offer is worth, your profit margins, and your market’s ability to pay.
Back in 2018, we explored partnering with a university to offer a group program for students who wanted to start their own business.
At $150/month for 4 months, it was at the lower end of what made sense for us financially, but I started my business as a fresh grad and wanted to do something to support that audience.
Initial market testing showed us that the target audience couldn’t support the pricing, so we scrapped it and filed away the data for a time when we can offer something more suitable for that target audience.
That may sound harsh, but if we hadn’t done that market testing I would have ended upside down on the project. Meaning it would have COST me money.
And while we’re talking about ability, also consider factors like time. If you’re targeting moms, then a high-touch 3 calls a week mastermind might not fly off the shelves.
You can have the greatest offer in the world, but if it’s out of reach for your audience, you’re not going to see sales.
Reach (AKA Your Audience)
Let’s start by defining reach real quick.
Reach is the number of people who fit your Ideal Client Avatar (ICA) that you can engage with organically (aka without paid traffic).
So, how do you determine reach?
To start, look at your email list to see how many people who are your ICA, open, and clicking-through when you send emails.
Now, look at your social media platforms. Are people engaging with your content and do they fit your ICA?
Next, consider whether your audience is big enough to achieve your desired results.
A good rule of thumb I like to use is assuming that only 0.5% of your list will convert.
Then work backwards, so if you’re looking to sell 25 spots in your course, you need an audience of 5000.
Note: Not 5000 followers or fans. 5000 engaged ICAs.
Use this formula to calculate the list size you need:
List Size = (Sales Goal)/0.005
For example, List Size = 25/0.005 = 5000
Note, this is super conservative, but it does help you set baseline expectations.
And don’t forget about PESO.
No, not the Mexican currency.
PESO or the Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned was created by Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks for the PR industry.
PESO or the Paid-Earned-Shared-Owned was created by Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks for the PR industry. We use a pared-down version of it to take stock of a client’s reach as we plan their launch strategy. (More about PESO here)
If your organic audience isn’t big or strong enough, then we need to beef it up.
The big takeaway about the pre-launch phase?
Your strategy needs to meet your audience where they are.
Once you’ve figured that out, look at where your prospects are on their customer journey - are they unaware? Problem aware? Solution aware? Again, your nurture sequence and the leanness of your launch will depend on this.
If your consumer is problem or solution aware, you can probably pull off a lean launch where you can trim out unnecessary webinars or supplementary educational material.
Need help planning your next launch? Grab The Conversion Kit Launch Planning Decks. They break down our process, and will help you plan and execute your next launch, stress-free. Get yours now!
PHASE II: Launching
There are 5 distinct mile-markers in any launch: funnel entry, your nurture stage, the point when you hit cart-open, your sales stage, and cart close.
Let’s dig into each one:
This is where people enter your funnel.
There are many ways you can attract new leads to your funnel. For example, you can share a lead magnet organically on Instagram or by using paid ads.
If in Phase I, you realised that your reach wasn’t big enough, then you’ll likely need to spend some time and money running ads to your lead magnet till you hit the number you need to hit your goals. (Remember that list size formula?)
If you have solid reach, you can skip right to the nurture phase.
It’s important to remember where your leads are coming from because prospects on your list are likely to be warmer (unless your list is dead) than people who opted-in because of a Facebook ad.
This happens before Cart Open and immediately after your audience has been added to your launch funnel.
This is where you prime your prospect for your product (Trying saying that three times fast).
In other words, the goal here is to get your audience to a point where they’re ready to buy.
The length and content of the nurture phase depend on where your audience is at in the awareness journey.
Your Nurture phase will normally consist of a sequence of emails, accompanied by complementary content on social media etc.
Your goals for the nurture phase are:
Show your audience that you know what you’re talking about
Make ‘em trust you
Make ‘em like you (You can be the smartest person on the block but if people get the impression you’re a bit of a douche, they aren’t going to buy from you)
Help them understand what their problem is, and what solving it could mean
That last point there is crucial.
You have to help them recognize that there is a problem, and give them a taste of what life could look like once that problem has been eliminated.
The best way of doing that is to focus on giving them at least one quick win during the course of your nurture sequence.
One small thing that they can take away and apply to their own lives or businesses and see a real result.
When they like you, trust you, and believe that you can help them get results, that’s when you open the cart.
Cart Open marks your transition from the Nurture phase to the Sales phase.
It begins the moment you first push out a link to your offer, and continues till the end of your launch.
Make sure you’ve tested all of your emails, proofread them before setting them in your automation, tested your payment processor etc, before you send out that first sales email.
The Sales phase begins the minute your cart opens, and is usually marked by an offer email.
During the early part of your Sales phase your goal is to really spell out what your product is, and how it solves the specific problem that you identified during your Pre-Launch planning.
During the middle you’re addressing the big objections that come up, and during the last few days/hours of your sales phase, as you approach Cart Close, you’re selling decisiveness.
The final hours of your launch aren’t the time to be wishy washy or non-committal.
All of the above also applies to your ad copy.
If ads were part of your strategy, you’ll also be looking at running retargeting ads to people who’ve checked out your sales page but didn’t end up buying.
Retargeting ads follow users around and sneakily pop up on their Facebook feeds, and as they’re scrolling through cat pics on Instagram. They’re a great way of making sure that your offer stays top of mind for your prospects.
This is the moment you stop accepting sales.
If you’re using a platform like Leadpages or Clickfunnels, you’ll set it up to automatically stop accepting sales at a certain point. If you’ve decided to skip that, you’ll need to manually deactivate your sales page or cart checkout page and redirect stragglers to a waitlist instead.
Within a day or two of Cart Close, send out a survey to people on your list.
Send out surveys to:
People who bought (asking people what they’re hoping to get out of the program is a getting great Voice of Customer data for the next round)
People who were engaged but didn’t buy (this audience will give you the best data on what didn’t work)
Once you have sufficient responses, it’s time to start analyzing the data.
If you’re new to launching, or looking to test out a brand new offer MVL-style and need a little extra support, join the Launch Lab, our free community for all things launch-related. →
PHASE III: Debrief
Phew. Step 1 of the debrief is to take a couple of days off.
Launches, even MVL-style ones, can be exhausting, so it’s important to take some time off before the debrief so you can approach the data with fresh eyes.
We divide debriefs into two parts: Execution and Data.
For the execution phase, sit down with the whole launch team and ask them to brain dump what worked, and what didn’t from an execution standpoint.
Ask questions like:
What went according to plan?
What was easier than you expected?
What proved to be more challenging?
Did you spot any opportunities to improve?
What should change?
The point of this is to identify bottlenecks, and streamline your process for the next round.
For the next part, you’ll be reviewing both the quantitative and qualitative data you’ve gathered throughout the launch.
Start with quantitative data.
Look at your open rates, click-through rates (CTR), unsubscribes, and ad performance, and make a list of:
Which emails had the highest and lowest open rates?
Which emails had the most responses?
Which emails had the most unsubscribes?
Which ads performed the best?
Once you’ve got this data, match it to the pain points and motivations in your copy. We like to use a scoring chart to keep track of what messaging is performing the best.
Next, look at your qualitative data.
The results from your surveys
Responses to emails
Comments on ads or social media posts
Organize this data into:
Objections (What questions keep coming up?)
Areas of friction (this will include things like technical issues, but also things like a prospect not understanding what an offer meant, or having questions about what it includes)
Homeruns (What was really hitting the spot for your audience?)
As you work on categorizing your survey data, keep scoring your pain points, motivations, and areas of friction. (We use a messaging scoring chart to see which pain points have the most impact. If this is something you’d like to see, let me know! We can create a template for The Conversion Kit)
Once you’re done, you should have a clear picture of what worked this time around, what didn’t work at all.
Now as you plan your next launch, you’ll know which aspects of your strategy you need to lean into, what needs to be scrapped, and what elements you need to add.
And that’s that.
While it might seem like a lot of work, MVLs are actually a lot less work than most launches because you’re only really including elements that will move the needle for your specific audience. The most important part is clearly defining your strategy in Phase I, the rest is just executing the plan you laid out.